#533 – Wobble King

Box

Base price: $15.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: 5 – 15 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas

Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 3 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Wobble King was provided by HABA.

Alright, we’ve got a new age coming up; an age of HABA! I got a bunch of these games at Gen Con and have only recently had enough time to give them the attention that they deserve, so I’m going to spend the next indeterminate period of time going through the games I was given and reviewing them all. It helps that it’s right before the holidays, since HABA is usually a company that I look to for great gifts for the family. They’re also pushing a line of Game Night Approved games that are for a bit more advanced players, so, trying new things is always a good idea. Personally, I find Rhino Hero: Super Battle fun at any age group, but you know, some people only like to buy Serious Games for Serious Boys. That’s them. Let’s launch right into Wobble King and see what’s going on there.

In Wobble King, King Leo sleeps on his bed of treasure, as he does. You seek to liberate some of that treasure to either help the less fortunate or line your own pockets; I’m not given your backstory. The problem is, he’s literally sleeping on it, so it’s going to be hard to get the treasure without him noticing. Hard, but not impossible. You will need to be swift and cunning if you want to pull it off, because who knows what the guards will do to you if they wake you up? I do. They’ll throw rotten tomatoes at you. That’s just how this kingdom does. Will you be able to sneak away with treasure without waking up the king?

Contents

Setup

Not much setup to do. Take the nuggets and the stick:

Sticks and Stones

Mix the nuggets up and spread them around such that the board can fit on top of them without any hanging out visibly from below the board:

Board

Place King Leo on the center of the board:

The King

Set aside the Rotten Tomato chips; you hopefully won’t be getting any of these:

Rotten Tomatoes

You should be ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

In Wobble King, as mentioned elsewhere, you are trying to steal the treasure of King Leo literally out from under him while he sleeps. Thankfully, the wooden stick here is going to be your friend. On your turn, swipe underneath of the board without looking under it to knock some of the silver nuggets out. There is no limit to the number of nuggets you can get on your turn, but you can only retrieve them once. Watch out for load-bearing treasure!

Gameplay 2

If you do so successfully without tipping the board or King Leo, take those nuggets and place one each on any empty space on the board of your choice. Pass the wooden stick to the next player; they’ll start their turn and do the same thing.

Gameplay 5

If you do tip the board or King Leo, his guards are alerted and throw a rotten tomato at you! Take one of the rotten tomato tokens.

Gameplay 4

If all the spaces on the board are filled, King Leo has been robbed without even noticing! You make off with the treasure. Reset the board and try again; nobody gains any rotten tomatoes this round.

If any player gains a second rotten tomato, they immediately lose! All other players win the game!

Player Count Differences

There aren’t many, to be honest. I think at higher player counts there’s more of an incentive to make risky moves, since it comes back around to your turn much less frequently, so you can leave your opponents in a bind without getting totally messed up. At two, though, if you make a risky move, your opponent only has to extract one nugget to make it your turn again. That’s actually pretty not-hard to do. In general, I find that to be true of dexterity games like this; it’s rare for risky moves to be inadvisable at higher player counts (if you can pull them off) because the likelihood of another player getting punished for your insolence is reasonably high. Wobble King maintains that idea in its gameplay, and so I think it’s easier to pull that sort of thing off with four players. That said, if you want a very heady dexterity game, figuring out a way to play it with two would definitely be that due to the decreased downtime between your turns. I think I prefer it at higher player counts?

Strategy

  • Watch out for load-bearing nuggets. I think this is most of the game. If you try to push a nugget out and it doesn’t want to budge, then it’s bearing a lot of the load of the board. I would recommend trying to push something else out, instead. If you try to push that one out, you’re going to tip over the whole board and take a rotten tomato.
  • Try to slightly unbalance the board at the end of your turn. I usually do this by placing the silver nuggets on the edge with the fewest nuggets underneath supporting it. It’s rare, but they can occasionally topple the board if you do that improperly, so be careful with where you’re placing stuff. Toppling the board on yourself is kind of a clown move. If you’re not sure you can place it safely, just … put it somewhere else.
  • I wouldn’t recommend going too quickly. If you do a quick swipe under the board, you’re aggressively more likely to knock out something that actually bears some of the board’s weight. Again, knocking over the board on yourself is kind of the wrong move, so it may be worth being a bit more careful. You don’t have to remove every piece in order to win; you just have to make sure that you don’t remove the wrong piece and cause yourself to lose.
  • If you’re worried about stability, try to remove fewer pieces rather than more. There’s no prize for the player who removes the most nuggets (which is surprising; that seems like a cheap way to make the game feel a bit more strategic), so if you’re worried that you’re going to tilt the board, just remove one piece so that it stops being your turn. Then your opponent has to deal with the situation you just left them. This is where having more opponents is explicitly helpful; now there are three people taking their turn before your next turn. This is only really a problem if they can each take one nugget without any problems. Then, you might want to take more and leave them with fewer options (similar to Nim).
  • Don’t overthink it. It’s a dexterity game that plays like, ages 5 and up. You may not need to use that physics degree to get ahead in this one. Just kind of feel things out and move at a reasonable pace and see what happens. Either way, it’ll be over relatively quickly.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Gameplay 3

Pros

  • The actual action of removing the nuggets is super fun. You can kind of just swoop them out at a reasonable clip if you’re feeling fresh enough. I can’t recommend that, but, again, I’m a written review, not a cop. Live your absolute best life.
  • Plays quickly, usually. It’s usually over in about 10 minutes or so, given how likely that structure is to topple once it has any empty space below it of note. That’s always a perk for a dexterity game; usually speed is a nice feature. MegaCity: Oceania is one exception, though.
  • Very easy to set up. You kind of just throw down the nuggets and place the board on top. There’s not a whole lot else to do. No cards, no fancy dice; nothing. Just a board and some nuggets. And the King.
  • Super easy to learn. You swipe with a wooden stick to move nuggets out from below the sleeping king to try and have him tip over on other players’ turns. There’s not a whole lot else to that, which is nice. It’s very family-friendly, conceptually and in practice.
  • Cute theme. I mean, who doesn’t want to aggressively redistribute the wealth of a king so rich he feels like he has to sleep on top of his money? I 100% do. I’m not sure how this appeals to younger gamers, but as a jaded older gamer I’m right here for the theme.

Mehs

  • It’s hard for me to feel like I’ve ever done a good job placing the nuggets under the board. I wish there were a way to easily randomly distribute them such that one player doesn’t have to see their orientation or something. It’s a minor irk but it’s definitely something I feel every time I set the game up. Just anything would work, I think.
  • Doesn’t come with any sort of bag for storing the nuggets that can be resealed. You just kind of dump the nuggets into the box, which is really not super amazing. The insert will at least keep them under the board, but they’ll be bouncing around the whole time in the box.

Cons

  • If the players are all doing well, the game will never end. There is no end condition beyond “one player loses”, so if the game is easy enough (and I’ve found it to be easy enough), you can get through multiple rounds of no tomatoes being thrown without any problems. This means the game will rapidly overstay its welcome with experienced players, which is unfortunate. This is why we generally remove one nugget from play, so that it will always end in a crash. The problem is, that just highlights how similar it is to Nim.
  • It’s just dexterity Nim. This is the same problem I had with Venice Connection (tile Nim). I really don’t enjoy Nim or its variants that much, and this feels very much in that vein, since you’re trying to not be stuck with an ungrabbable nugget situation on your turn. I wish there were some kind of scoring mechanic that would make this feel less like a direct analogue.
  • It doesn’t really feel like singly-stacking the nuggets influences the weight of the board all that much. It would be really cool if you could stack the nuggets higher than singly on the board so that you’d actually influence the weight and make the game more challenging. It might make me feel better about the game overall, but who knows?

Overall: 5.75 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I think Wobble King is fine. On one hand, I really want to like it. I love most dexterity games, and the act of swiping underneath of a board to grab potentially load-bearing items is a lot of fun. The problem is that players will often feel around to see which ones are bearing the weight and not go after those, so we’ve had to make a sorta fast-swipe rule where you need to move quickly. Even when that happens, though, it’s pretty easy to keep the king balanced when there are only three nuggets underneath, so it ends up feeling vaguely pointless since the game doesn’t end if you successfully fill the board; it just starts another round. We tried to fix this by removing one nugget from the game so that there would only be two nuggets (making the king’s long-term stability much more questionable), but then it just highlights how much of the game is Nim-esque. It’s not about taking any of the earlier pieces; it’s about taking the last viable piece and forcing your opponent to lose. It’s cute, yes, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say there’s much past that, here, for me. I’d love to see a variant where the nuggets all have different densities, or one where you can stack more nuggets on one side to try and counterbalance the weight, or something that feels a bit more dynamic (different boards? An underboard?). Something like that could really elevate this game. For now, though, it’s just fine for me, and if you really need a quick dexterity fix (or you’re playing with younger and / or significantly less coordinated players), you possibly could enjoy it too?

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